Tag Archives: authentic

Grand(eur) all the way

Visiting any place in Gujarat always excites me as the State is so rich in art and culture and the prospect of getting a glimpse of that, in itself is an attraction.

So when Vadodara, beckoned, as Surya Palace, the iconic hotel in the city of Vadodara was being rebranded to Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace, it was reason enough to pay a visit.

Chukh chukh chakh chakh Bombay se Baroda tak. Rishi Kapoor’s famous song from the film ‘Rafoo Chakkar’ was playing in my head as I travelled by train to Vadodora, albeit from Surat.

Surya Palace is synonymous with Vadodara and boasts of warm hospitality, great food and impeccable service. But of course I needed to experience it for myself. Add to that the involvement of the world famous AccorHotels now, so the expectations were really high.

The warm welcome and smooth check in won my heart instantly. But it was the lobby with a display of a plethora of art works that caught my attention. I was mesmerized.

From the sculptures by Nagji Patel in the porch and the ceramic works of P. R. Daroz, Jyoti Bhatt, along with display of Padma Vibhushan Prof. K G. Subramanium’s paintings, it was like walking into a beautiful art gallery. That itself gave me an insight into the rich heritage of this hotel and its connect with the city of Vadodara.

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My well-appointed room with warm earthy colours, beautiful paintings and replete with amenities, appealed to me instantly. The attention to detail struck me as outstanding. Bharat Kumar Gupta, the Front Office Manager and his team were omnipresent, always ready to assist and help at any time of the day or night.

Deluxe King Room - Gand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace

Jean-Michel Cassé, Chief Operating Officer, India & South Asia, AccorHotels rightly said, “Grand Mercure is a cultural touchstone in each destination, capturing guests’ imagination and bringing local stories to life.” It certainly held true for Grand Mercure Surya Palace Vadodara.

Piyush Shah, Managing Director, Jindal Hotels Ltd with Jean-Michel Cassé, Chief Operating Officer, India & South Asia, AccorHotels at the launch of Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace

The food, which is always the pivot of my existence, in more ways than one, surpassed my expectations. I expected to eat only Vegetarian food in Gujarat and perhaps only local delicacies, but Executive Chef Sudhakar Angre’s prowess in Non-vegetarian food at each meal surprised me at Azure, the all-day dining restaurant.  The quality of ingredients, the presentation and cooking methods used were impressive. No where was there an instance of spices overpowering the flavours. The ingredients were the hero. The sheer variety offered at each meal was amazing. From chicken quesadillas to lamb rogan josh and from panki to undhiyo, there was everything on offer. The Mediterranean offerings were equally lip-smacking. The local food was of course a treat for our taste buds- khaman, fafda, jalebis, sev tameta nu shaak etc

Vanilla the delicatessen, was hard to resist each time we stood in the lobby as the display of freshly made desserts, cookies, cakes, was alluring.

Just when I thought, I had sampled it all, the traditional Gujarati thali served to us for dinner on our last night there, swept me off my feet. The spread in the thali was expectedly varied, but the authenticity of the dishes and the manner in which it was served, left me awe struck. The local breads of Gujarat served were outstanding as were the aamras, kadhi, dal, undhyo, bhindi. It was a feast fit for royalty.

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The cultural function organsied by the Hotel giving us a peek into Gujarat’s rich cultural heritage was a treat as was the visit to places of interest like the Laxmi Vilas Palace and Fateh Singh Museum.

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Rajesh Gopalakrishnan, General Manager, Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace said, “Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace will provide a unique dimension for guests staying at the property. With a distinctive portfolio of accommodation, dining destinations and MICE facilities, we are set to define new standards of hospitality and look forward to cater to the city’s growing tourism and business activities.”

Well, if the launch and my personal experience was anything to go by, the 146 room, Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace certainly was all set to achieve this and more.

Aabar Khabo : Once is not enough

My connection from Kolkata, actually erstwhile Calcutta, is from birth. Yes, I was born and brought up in the City of Joy which I still sorely miss. Naturally then, Bengali food is my comfort food and I thoroughly enjoy the cuisine and all its nuances.

To visit the MoMo Cafe at Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai to try The Kolkata Konnection, Bengali food festival was a trip down memory lane for me.

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Curated by Executive Chef Avijit Deb Sharma and his team, including a chef from JW Marriott Kolkata, it was indeed a spread any gourmand would look forward to. The Bengali dishes were a part of the buffet spread, which of course offered other cuisines too, catering to wide palate. There was a separate counter with phuchka Kolkata’s version of pani puri) and jhal muri, the quintessential street food of Kolkata. And of course a separate section serving the lip-smacking Bengali starters, chicken cutlet, fish fry, vegetable chop et al.

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I bit into the fish fry and memories came flooding. I have grown up enjoying this delicacy in South Calcutta where I grew up at several places, but Mukherjee sweets in Ballygunge Place, being my all time favourite. This one was close. The fish fillet wrapped in spices, coated with breadcrumbs, was fried to perfection. Comforting and familiar flavours. The dhonepatta  bhaja or coriander fritter was spicy and fragrant. The chicken cutlet with chicken mince was delightful as was the vegetable chop with the characteristic beetroot, potatoes and groundnuts. I was off to a great start and was enjoying every morsel with kasundi or the mustard dip.

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The mains were a feast fit for the kings. The thaal or a huge thali with several katoris or vaatis was a treat for the eyes. Kosha mangsho or the onion based slow-cooked mutton preparation, cholar dal, alu posto, ilish or Hilsa fish, malai chingri or the creamy prawn curry, begun bhaja, kodaishutir kochuri or green peas puri and of course the pulao, fragrant with ghee and roasted nuts and raisins, was what my meal comprised. The lebu (lemon) chatni, tomato chutney and aamer (mango) chutney were also served along, as no Bengali meal is complete without these.

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The dishes were simple and cooked home-style. The flavours were authentic replete with the Bengali spices and ingredients (mustard oil, paanch phoran, gobindbhog rice, gondhoraj lebu) and the melange of textures, absolutely delightful.

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Not only was the meal delicious in terms of its taste and flavours, but equally a nostalgic one for me as I sat recounting endless occasions when I had sampled those dishes at home or with friends and family.

Rosogulla and aamer (mano) sandesh was what I finished my meal with.  Both got my vote. But of course there were other Bengali desserts on offer too.

I left MoMo Cafe happy and satiated, stuffing a Kolkata meetha paan in my mouth, with the smile not leaving my face.

On till June 24 for dinner, this Bengali food festival is a must try for those who relish Bengali food and others keen to experiment.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

Lucio: Celebrating the flavours of Goa

The Goan in me is perpetually craving authentic Goan food, even when I am in Goa or perhaps more so as chances of getting home style food there are stronger.

Lucio at Radisson Blu Resort, Cavelossim South Goa proved to be the perfect choice. The Goan cuisine Master chef Peter Araujo was in command and the menu there, read like a dream for me.

Soups, Starters, Goan curries, Rice, Breads, Desserts- the menu offered them all. And yes, there were vegetarian options too.

The decor is chic and contemporary and the lay out  with wooden tables and chair, neat. The natural light filtering in, gives it a warm vibe.

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My spinach and potato soup was replete with subtle flavours. The texture was sufficiently creamy. The prawns rissois, were delectable- creamy prawns in a white sauce, generously filled in a karanji -shaped choux pastry case and deep fried. Of course the menu had abundant choices- crispy fried prawns, calamari, croquettes and more.

Cashew xacuti, red rice, mutton sukhem and Goan fish curry along with sannas and prawns kismur was what we opted for.

The fish curry was tangy and subtly spiced, just the way I like it. The freshly ground coconut paste, was adeptly blended into the curry, so as to give a hint of the flavour, without revealing the crunchy texture. It paired well with the red rice and made me nostalgic. This was truly home cooked food.

The cashew xacuti was unique. Spicy but not overpowered with masala. The coconut here too was well-meshed with the gravy. The kismur struck me as unusual- the melange of textures and flavours was perfect.

Chef Peter obviously displayed his skills and mastery even in the simple home-style meal he served us. In fact that to my mind is a tough task and he succeeded with flying colours.

What can I say about the mutton sukhem? the pieces of mutton were succulent and the masala wrapped over it, just perfect- no overdose of gram masala or chillies. Tantalizing the taste buds but not drowning the flavours in the spices.

Vegetarians need no fret- foogath, varan, rissois, mushroom xacuti are all available for one to gorge on.

The simplicity of the meal was what blew me off completely. The spices used were of the best quality, the cooking methods authentic and the resultant dishes, just the way Portuguese and Goan families would eat.

No meal in Goa is complete without the customary date and black jaggery pancakes- Alle Belle. This was exceptionally well-made and the filling simply melt-in-the-mouth.

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The staff is pleasant and willing to assist and the dishes, flawless. Along with Chef Peter, Chef Leon deserves a mention for his extraordinary communication skills apart from being a great and knowledgeable chef. Brajendra the Asst. F&B Manager was exceedingly hospitable and helpful

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I stepped out with a smile on my face after having relished a traditional Goan meal sans frills or modern twists.

Greco : Simply Greek in Goa

A cheerful vibe envelopes you as you enter the Greek cuisine restaurant Greco replete with pristine white and bright blue decor – quintessentially Greek. Although located at Radisson Blu Resort, Cavelossim in South Goa, the separate entrance with the menu placed outside, gives you an option to enter this place, without having to go through the Hotel.

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The striking decor actually transports you to Greece and you could well be in a taverna with a relaxed setting. An arch way leads you to the outdoor seating which is of the inimitable courtyard style and offers a spectacular view. Of course, there is ample seating inside too. In fact the plush interiors, with a swish, well-stocked bar and the mood lighting creates an unparalleled atmosphere.

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A  simple but complete menu largely representative of Crete island in Greece,  is palced before you. However, there are other specialities from other parts of Greece too, giving a diner an insight into this cuisine. The menu has been cleverly crafted by Chef Stelios, a native of Greece. Sea food expectedly abounds in the offerings.

My Psarosopa is a medley of sea food flavours- subtle and comforting. The sea food stock has been cleverly used and is not overpowering. The Greek Mezze here is quite different from the various versions that are often passed off as the original mezze. The tzatziki is bang on in flavours and textures. The kalamata olive paste wows my palate as well, but it is the aubergine salad which unexpectedly stands out. With the warm pita bread dipped into these in turns, I relish every morsel I eat.

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The garides saganaki- a simple but flavourful prawns dish in tomatoes with a dash of ouzo (liqueur) perks up my taste buds. The prawns are fresh and of a superior quality. The tragani feta bursting with fresh flavours, encased in a crisp covering drizzled with honey, with a characteristic sweet and savoury flavour, was the piece de resistance for the evening. It clearly bore testimony to the chef’s mastery over his craft.

The gyros chicken is well-made too. Sea food and poultry apart, for hard-core carnivores, there is a fair amount to choose from. Vegetarians need not despair as there is ample variety too.

My dessert is special, yet, traditional. Galaktoboureko – a sweet and sour cream on a pastry crust immersed me in a food coma. A bite into the crispy phyllo and the creamy semoilna custard filled one’s mouth. Made to perfection, it was a dessert which left you satiated and yet, craving for more.

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I observed that nowhere in my entire meal, did the spices (although minimal) drown the flavours of the core ingredients and the chef had donejustice to all the ingredients by using simple cooking methods.

The use of extra virgin olive oil, ouzo and fresh authentic ingredients adds the right amount of punch and flavour to the dishes. The food is high on flavours and the quality of the ingredients, shines through. It is simple and uncomplicated fare.

If a cocktail is what you fancy, the bartender behind the glitzy bar will make you something to your taste. And of course the selection of wines will lure you as well.

The staff is well-informed about the menu and the service is quick and alert.

Greco truly surpassed my expectations and I felt that for the first time in India, I had a Greek meal which was an honest representation of this simple but flavoursome cuisine.

Rating: 4.5/5

Celebrating Simple Vegetarian Food Lavishly

The word ‘Haveli’ immediately conjures images of royalty and opulence. Naturally then, an invite to The Bombay Haveli, a new vegetarian restaurant in Charni Road, Mumbai added to my intrigue and excitement. Add to that was the fact that one was visiting ‘Bombay’ after a long time, instead of Mumbai.

Easily accessible, this vegetarian restaurant lives up to its name. The high ceilings, elegant but plush decor, exudes magnificence and warmth. The seating sections both down and upstairs are comfortable, although the area down appears more relaxed and less cramped. The polite and affable staff puts you at ease immediately.

I actually look forward to vegetarian meals even though am a carnivore no less, as to my mind, to wow a palate with vegetarian flavours is challenging, yet, perhaps more exciting for a chef.

The menu is eclectic – Gujarati, Rajasthani, North Indian and Parsi food and yes, some global dishes too with a twist. The food here caters to all age groups unabashedly. The sections of the menu too are creatively worded. The food is hearty and robust, true to the original flavours, yet with its own distinct character.

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The patra ni machchi with a paneer version struck me as an interesting addition. The chutney is authentic and the texture of the paneer closest to that of fish here.

The Rajwadi dhokli boasts of robust flavours and the right elements of spice. Truly a palate pleaser. The panchmel dal wada is equally a delight for the taste buds and offers a great bite. The options are plenty as the menu is an exercise in choices.

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For mains, the dal bati churma gets my instant vote as does the mag ni dal ni khichdi and kadhi. Absolutely comforting and replete with authentic flavours.  The rustic touch to the dal bati churma is what keeps its sanctity and makes it unique. The food is refreshingly simple and unpretentious. The portions are generous and value-for-money.

Those not fond of Gujarati food can happily tuck into palak paneer, chola bhatura, yellow dal et al and there is plenty of fun food for youngsters and kids as well.

The desserts too are varied and the gulkand rabdi with jalebis that I sampled is lip-smacking- the right amount of sweetness and the perfect creamy texture of the rabdi. The gulkand flavours too are subtle. The crisp and well-fried jalebis pair well with it.

A lot of thought has gone into the menu and an earnest effort made to keep the food light yet flavourful.

The Bombay Haveli truly celebrates vegetarian food in all its glory. Kudos to Marzy Parakh, Parth Dalal and Sarthak Oza, for giving Mumbai a part of Bombay yet again.

Rating: 4/5

 

 

 

Shaan-e-Awadh @Jeon

A seemingly complex cuisine like the Awadhi, when simplified, in terms of flavours, can only be an achievement, attributed to a great chef. Chef Chandan Singh at Jeon, Hotel Sea Princess Juhu Mumbai, has manged to do just that. Without a doubt, the Awadhi Food Festival which begins here tomorrow is bound to find favour with foodies of all age groups.

This aromatic rich cuisine, replete with dry fruits, nuts and spices is famed for certain dishes. Nalli Nihari, Biryani, Taftan, Dal Makhani are a must, in a menu offering this cuisine. And Chef Chandan Singh along with fellow chef Amit and Executive Chef Jersen Fernandes has put together a menu, which showcases the best of Awadh.

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The gajar and annanas ka shorba aka carrot and pineapple shorba that we started with, swept me off my feet. The amalgamation of two diversely flavoured ingredients, was done to perfection. One could actually taste the sweetish fresh pineapple as well as the carrot, both immersed in subtle spices.One of the best shorbas I have ever had. It actually left me craving for more. For once, the Murg dhaniya shorba, which was also delicious, seemed plain.

The galouti kebab, the hero of Lucknawi cuisine was as expected, melt-in-the-mouth. The aroma and flavours of spices were pronounced, but not overpowering. The chicken seekh struck me as extraordinary, in terms of the flavours and texture. The seekh was firm and soft, not mushy or chewy as it often tends to be at some restaurants. The meat, laced with herbs and spices, was an interesting bit of innovation.

In the mains, the fish tikki – rawas fillet in a tangy and well-spiced tomato based gravy, got my instant vote. The use of authentic Awadhi spices was a testimony of the chef’s mastery over his craft. No compromise here.

What can I say about the dal bukhara? For a minute, I thought I was at the ITC hotels. Chef Chandan Singh has clearly figured out the secret behind this coveted dish and has done full justice to it.

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The Nalli Nihari was mildly flavoured, but the spices and richness of mutton, teased the palate just a wee bit. The accompanying, sweetish taftan was the perfect pair. Everything else paled in comparison.

The murg biryani was again a treat and perked up my taste buds as I tasted the first spoonful. Well-marinated, the chicken pieces were moist and succulent and meshed seamlessly with the flavoured rice, cooked in dum style. The aroma filled my nostrils as the purdah was removed and the biryani served.

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The shahi tukra was every bit royal. A perfect finale to a great meal. The creamy and rich rabdi wrapped around the deep fried bread laced with nuts and dry fruits was delectable and decadent. The phirni in comparison was a tad bland and disappointing, although the texture was just right.

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The meal overall, was overwhelming and had actually surpassed my expectations. Being used to some Awadhi meals with dishes doused with kewra and rose water and rich and greasy meat dishes, this one was a welcome change. Simple, authentic flavours, true to its Nawabi origins. Yet, nothing in the meal made one feel heavy or caused discomfort.

I left Jeon with a happy smile, almost having made a trip to Awadh.

The Awadhi food festival is on from Nov 5 till November 15 and is a treat, food lovers should not miss.

Rating: 4/5

 

 

 

 

Rustic & Robust Flavours from A Village

Pind da khana sounds comforting at once. After all it means, food from your village. And here, if the ‘pind’ in question is Punjab, well, automatically it spells familiarity and comfort for me.

Baluchi at The Lalit, Mumbai is currently hosting a Pind da Khana festival till Saturday for both lunch and dinner.

My lunch began on a refreshing note with the Shikanji soda or lemonade with rock salt and soda. The right amount of sweetness and salt. Just the way I love mine. It helped me create an appetite.

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The menu was fairly exhaustive and I was in a dilemma. What shall I eat or skip? Amritsari Chholey kulchey, Patialashahi kadhai Paneer, Kadhi pakoda, Jalandhari barrah boti and Amritsari Machhi. I was impressed with the vegetarian options too. .

The traditional Atte Gond ka halwa, whole wheat flour sweet delicacy with nuts and natural gum- recipe which originates from Phagwara district- a sugar producing belt of Punjab as well as gulabi phirnee, gulab jamun et al, adorned the dessert section of the menu.

Executive Chef Angshuman Chakraborty came to my rescue and promised to send me small portions of some of the special dishes. I was sorted.

The chicken tikka and Macchi Ajwaini tikka arrived. A bite into the succulent chicken tikka and I figured out this was no ordinary fare. The tikkas were well marinated and the flavours of the marinade had enveloped the tikka perfectly. The fresh pieces of  River Sole fish with the right amount of spices that teased my taste buds, was equally a delight. No overdose of ajwain or spices here at all.

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Executive Chef Angshuman Chakraborty , Master Chef Rais Alam and his culinary team had surely whipped up an array of authentic, robust and flavourful delicacies, which I was thoroughly relishing.

The dhaniya mirch da kukkad with whole chillies, onion and coriander was a delectable medley for my palate, subtle yet, spicy. It paired well with the laccha paratha, besan ki roti and naan, the chef had sent. The methi matar preparation and the dhaba dal in the main course, got my vote instantly. For a change it was not the usual dal makhni but a tasty mixed dal with interesting spices. And the methi, rustic and appeased my palate.

The Rarah gosht and kukkad pulao looked inviting on the menu, but there was no scope to try more today.

Nothing in the meal was oily or greasy that made one feel uneasy. That’s what set this meal apart.

The aate gond ka halwa was easily one of the best I have ever tasted. The variety of textures- creamy, crunchy, were a delight, as were the flavours and the aroma of fresh ghee. The phirnee too was excellent, but today, paled in comparison.

The ambience and decor of the restaurant was in keeping with the theme and the service was warm, attentive and efficient, yet, unobtrusive, as it should be.

My experience at Baluchi, had actually surpassed my expectations. I was glad I had stepped in to savour such an exceptional meal. I knew for a fact, I was going to be coming to The Lalit Mumbai more often, if this is how Chef Angshuman and his team succeeded in luring food lovers like me.